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Hollywood's Age Bias Won't Die by Itself

August 27, 1994

David Bowen's statement (Letters, Aug. 20) that the efforts put forth by the Writers Guild Age Awareness Committee have little chance of working was off the mark.

Bowen writes, "Producers just need to realize that the mature person will do it better." No problem . . . right?

Wrong! It's the producers who are avoiding gray hair in the first place.

For the professionals who entered the industry in the '60s and '70s when the best producers, directors, writers and crew heads all had gray hair, there was an expectation that if you learned your craft really well, your career would get better with time and you would prosper. That, unfortunately, is no longer the case. The social contract has been broken, and the expectation has been destroyed.

Writers and directors are being told by their agents that "I can't go on representing you; I have to concentrate on younger clients." Unless they have powerful names, older writers cannot get meetings with powerful decision-makers.

We're dealing with Wunderkinder here, so an "over the hill" writer or director can be a baby boomer, and there are more than a few with kids still expecting to go to college. I have personal knowledge of several who made six-figure incomes until a few years ago and are now facing bankruptcy.

The Writers Guild Age Awareness Committee, in concert with representatives from the Directors Guild, SAG and AFTRA, is taking positive steps to create opportunities for commercially viable material created by people over 40, the age level for discrimination as specified by the federal government.

Bowen was correct in his statement that the producers need to understand the skills a mature artist or craftsman can bring to a project; he just didn't understand the depth and severity of the problem faced by some of the most experienced production professionals in Hollywood today. The problem is not self-expression; it is survival.

TOM BLANK

DGA Representative

to the Writers Guild

Age Awareness Committee

Glendale

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